The state is viewed as a legal institution because it is created and maintained by law. The government which is the instrument of the state interprets and enforces the will of the state in terms of law. The absence of law creates a state of anarchy and lawlessness. Therefore, law is an important basic concept of political science. In ordinary sense by law we mean a set of rules to regulate human conduct in a society. But the term ‘law’ is used in different spheres to give it varied meanings.
The English word ‘law’ is derived from the Latin word ‘lag’ which means something that is fixed evenly or tightly or made uniform. Therefore, uniformity is the most fundamental characteristic of law. A chemist talks of Boyle’s Law and Charle’s Law, a physicist speaks about ‘the laws of motion’, a zoologist mentions about ‘Mendel’s Law, an Economist explains ‘the law of demand’ a contractualist uses ‘the natural law’ and in the religious field ‘divine law’ is mostly talked of. Therefore in every sphere the importance of law is most genuinely felt. As the term ‘law’ is viewed from different angles with different interpretation, it is very much essential to point out some of the standard definitions of law.
Aristotle, the father of Political Science defines law as ‘reason means passion’
Holland a leading jurist opines that “a law is a general rule of external human action enforced by a sovereign political authority”
To Salmond “Law is a collection of the rules which the state recognises and applies in the administration of justice”.
Austin, the leading protagonist of the Analytical School of Jurisprudence, writes that “law is the command of the sovereign”.
The ‘law’ to T. H. Green is “the system of rights and obligations which the state enforces”
Woodrow Wilson, the renowned American President, defines law as “that portion of established thought and habit which has gained distinct and formal recognition in shape of uniform rules backed by the authority and power of the government.”
Types of Law
Under Old Roman Law, on the basis of its concern, laws have been classified into two categories private laws and public laws. The laws that regulate the relations between the private individuals including contractual relations come under the first category. While the laws that regulate and govern the relationship among the state, government and the individuals are known as public laws.
On the basis of the nature of law, it may be divided into ordinary law and constitutional law. The ordinary laws are made by the legislature while the constitutional law is the supreme and fundamental law of the land which regulates relations among the various organs of government.
Laws are further classified into civil and criminal laws on the basis of its contents. Disputes relating to marriage, divorce, financial or material claims, breach of contracts, claims of property are discussed under civil law. But the criminal law, on the other hand, is related to theft, murder, forgery, misappropriation etc.
On the basis of the area of operation, laws are further divided into two categories such as Municipal Law and International Law. The laws that regulate the internal behavior of states, individuals and their various associations are called Municipal law. It is also called National Law as it is applicable within its territorial limits. On the other hand that law which regulates the external behavior of sovereign states is known as International Law. It prescribes certain rights and obligations on the part of the sovereign states who are the members of the international community or the Family of Nations. It is a law between the sovereign states and not a state law.
Law and morality influence and supplement each other in regulating human conduct in the society. Law being a set of rules regulate external human conduct whose violation is a punishable offence. Laws are made and enforced by the state. But on the other hand morality hits on the ethical awareness and it is the dictate of the conscience. Morality discusses about some moral standards which every individual should strive for and also takes into cognizance the inner motives of the individuals. To think ill of others and planning to injure others is not a punishable offence within the scope of law but certainly antithetical to moral standards and therefore a moral wrong.
The breach of moral laws may not be visited with punishment. But morality alone cannot prevent wrongs if not necessarily complemented and supplemented by legal principles. Even though an age-old practice sati violates moral canons it could not be prevented in the absence of legal provisions. Therefore, morality becomes infectious if not adequately complemented by law. Thus law is an important concept in the domain of political science in whose absence a state of anarchy will hover over the sky of the civilized society.